Faculty of Arts and Education

Centre for Citizenship, Development and Human Rights


“What do we want for our Head of State?”

an event on the role of the Australian Head of State, both now and into the future


Workshop 555 Bourke Street, Melbourne 4 February 2012.

The CCDHR in conjunction with the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) held a very successful workshop on ‘What do we want for our Head of State’. The workshop was addressed by leading scholars on the issue of an Australian republic, as well as Melbourne’s lord mayor, a former minister and a sitting senator.

The key themes from the workshop, attended by around 60 participants, included the competing mechanisms for choosing a head of state, wide agreement on the unchanged substantive role of the head of state, respect for the monarchy and ways to put the republic debate back on the public agenda.

The workshop was open by the Lord Mayor of Melbourne, Robert Doyle, and the keynote address was delivered by Senator Lisa Singh, with former Liberal Senator Amanda Vanstone participating in the closing panel session. Ms Vanstone said her primary objection to retaining Australia as a constitutional monarchy rested on her strong, in-principle opposition to hereditary privilege.

Professor Anne Twomey and Glenn Patmore provided detailed and highly structured legal opinions on the legitimacy and mechanisms for establishing an Australian citizen as Australia’s head of state, while lawyer Greg Barns, Henry Pill and Daniel White from the ARM and Professor John Power provided a case as to why Australia should now move towards full independence from the UK.

Professor John Warhurst outlined some of the characteristics that he believed an Australian head of state should embody, while Professor Brian Costar considered the pros and cons of each of the Australian head of state models, popular elected, elected by a two-thirds majority of parliament or, as is the current method, chosen by the prime minister.

Victorian MP Jane Garrett joined Amanda Vanstone and Greg Barns for the concluding panel discussion.

The workshop was agreed to have provided a foundation for renewing the republican debate, with the papers to the conference intended to be published as an edited book.

Damien Kingsbury

 keynote panel  opening

Event page


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5th April 2012